Uncovering Stories at SOKY 2017
Recently, I had an opportunity to attend the Southern Kentucky Book Fest in Bowling Green, Kentucky and sign copies of The Corridor of Uncertainty. Hundreds of readers lined up to meet their favorite writers; it was an unforgettable experience for everybody involved. My personal adventure, however, began the very moment I stepped off the plane in Nashville, Tennessee. I was greeted there by dark, ominous skies and a torrential downpour of rain. 'This is a promising start,' I thought to myself.
As I strolled past the baggage claim, tangled in my massive web of gloomy thoughts, I spotted my chauffeur. He had a huge grin plastered across his face...one that looked like it was not going to fade anytime soon. Had I missed some funny news?
"Are you Nihar? It's great to meet you!" he bellowed as I walked towards him. "My name is Bill Powell. I'll be driving you to Bowling Green; it's about a one-hour drive." Bill was probably at least 60 or 70 years old, yet he was somehow full of infectious energy.
I assumed Bill was trying to be like any other chauffeur – an amicable and professional driver. But, I quickly found out how much more there was to him. On the drive towards Bowling Green, we opened up about everything…life, athletics, writing, music, and who knows what else. I found out that Bill was a former legendary swimming coach at Western Kentucky University. Even the natatorium had been named in his honor.
"When I retired from coaching swimming, I told myself that I wouldn't sit around and do nothing…so, I applied for a chauffeur job where I can meet people from all over the world. I still teach a few classes at the university as well," he explained to me.
I was overcome with respect. Bill was not even 60 or 70 like I had originally guessed. He was 80! At his age, when he should have been content with his lifelong success, he still had a desire to continue leaving his legacy on society. This was a man who I later found out was the second-winningest swimming coach in the United States. He was a man who positively impacted thousands of student lives over a span of 40 years. He was a man who held the fastest swimming mile time for his age group in the United States. Yet, he was pushing to do more, even at an age where most people would not bother
Meeting Bill was a humbling moment. He showed me that every single person has a unique and inspiring story. Oftentimes, though, we get so swept away in the wave of making ours seem more superior to the others that we completely forget to stop and hear what additional stories even exist in the world.
The next day, while I was signing books and speaking to readers at the Book Fest, I approached many fellow authors armed with the lesson I took away from my encounter with Bill. One author I met was Kim Dinan. At first glance, I just assumed Kim was another writer who was a part of the Book Fest. But, again, as we spoke, I found out there was so much more to her. She was a dream chaser. Kim had worked in a corporate job until she realized it was not her true calling. Inside, her heart kept screaming at her to become a full-time writer.
For many years, Kim suppressed that dream inside her heart. One day, though, she found that she no longer could. Rather than letting the dream slowly die, she built up the courage to let go of what society thought about her. Making her story seem superior to others through unfulfilling "success" in the corporate world was no longer important. Kim quit her job.
In a matter of months, she left to travel the world and write about her experiences as she had always wanted to do. Along the way, she changed peoples' lives through her volunteering efforts and special yellow envelope contributions. You can read about her full story in The Yellow Envelope: One Gift, Three Rules, and a Life-Changing Journey Around the World.
If anything, after reflecting on my full trip to the Southern Kentucky Book Fest, I realize how important it is to take more time to speak to the people around us. Life is not always about being better than others. It is about uplifting others.
Amazing people with unique and inspiring stories surround us every day. This is what makes the world such a beautiful place. It is also what made my experience in Kentucky so remarkable. Thank you to everybody involved who made the event possible. It will certainly have a lasting impact on my life, and I hope it will change the way you think as well.